The History of the Found Footage Film
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The History of the Found Footage Film
How the genre went from being a social outcast to a commercial success.
Curated by Josh Coursey
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Found Footage Horror: Its History and Style

Found Footage Horror: Its History and Style | The History of the Found Footage Film | Scoop.it

"One of my main passions in life is movies. I watch any kind of movie in any type of medium or genre. If I were to choose my favorite genre, I would give..."

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This post is an essay on the stylistic elements of found footage horror films including Cannibal Holocaust (1980), The Blair Witch Project (1999), Noroi: The Curse (2005), REC (2007), and Paranormal Activity (2007). The essay touches on the critical receptions of the films and why found footage has become a successful sub-genre within the realm of horror. The writer clearly provides plot details for each film and analyzes the narratives to slowly unravel the underlying themes found within them.

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Chronicle (2012)

"Chronicle synopsis: Three high school students make an incredible discovery, leading to their developing uncanny powers beyond their understanding. As they learn to control their abilities and use them to their advantage, their lives start to spin out of control, and their darker sides begin to take over."

Josh Coursey's insight:

Chronicle (2012) is a prime example of the new-wave found footage film which started with Cloverfield (2008). Due to the nature of found footage, the filmmakers were able to pull from many genres to propel the narrative towards an unsettling yet completely identifiable horror. Part high-school comedy-drama, part sci-fi, and part superhero movie, the film managed to take a completely unbelievable story and make it relatable to the audience, largely in part due to the classical found footage format it follows. This clip showcases the multi-genre influence and hints at a recurring horror throughout the film—a horror brought by not knowing one’s own power and limits.

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Frame By Frame - Paranormal Activity Series

Frame By Frame - Paranormal Activity Series | The History of the Found Footage Film | Scoop.it

"University of Nebraska-Lincoln professor of Film Studies Wheeler Winston Dixon isn't scared of growing trend of ultra-low budget films like "Paranormal Activity."

Josh Coursey's insight:

Paranormal Activity (2007) revived the popularity of the found footage genre after several Blair Witch copy-cats proved unsuccessful. This video offers background creative and financial information on the first three films in the series and shows clips to provide examples of the found footage visuals. The video also hints at how Hollywood will continue to make found footage films such as Paranormal Activity because they are relatively cheap to make and they generally offer a high rate of return. Another interesting concept stated within the video is how found footage films are becoming increasingly similar to fellow independently crafted mumble-core films.

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Project X (2012)

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Project X (2012) was the first found footage film to take the genre into a drastically different tonal direction. Rather than the standard horror and thriller storyline, this found footage film took more of a comedic route to reach its audience. Yet the film manages to maintain a certain level of horror even in all its hijinks, as shown in this scene. Amidst the antics, the boys realize the party has become so massive that they cannot control it anymore. The horror this film presents is not demons or witches or monsters—it’s drunk and unruly teenagers.

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Man Bites Dog: Cinema of Entrapment

Man Bites Dog: Cinema of Entrapment | The History of the Found Footage Film | Scoop.it

"'Why am I watching this?' The question comes up whenever an otherwise reasonable person watches a sordid character do horrible things. You want to look away, but you can’t, or won’t. Maybe you do look away for a time—but then you look back.

Josh Coursey's insight:

Man Bites Dog (1992), much like Cannibal Holocaust (1980), was an exceptionally violent film which was not released without its own bout with controversy. But, again like the 1980 film, Man Bites Dog showcased its violence in such a way as to satirize society. This brief essay mentions the satirical qualities of the film and explains how the classical found footage style is, in and of itself, a satire on the cultural obsession with voyeurism. The essay shows how shocking the extreme violence coupled with the nonchalant documentary style of found footage can be. The author even asks of the reader if it is too much—proving just how effective the film was at creating unsettling feelings in its audience members.

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Witch Hunt: A Look Back at the Beginnings of Viral Marketing and its Impact on Today

Witch Hunt: A Look Back at the Beginnings of Viral Marketing and its Impact on Today | The History of the Found Footage Film | Scoop.it

"In June 1998, filmmakers DANIEL MYRICK and EDUARDO SANCHEZ launched the original Blair Witch Project website via their production website haxan.com. The Blair Witch Project then debuted at the 1999 Sundance Film Festival and was immediately..."

Josh Coursey's insight:

This post analyzes the viral marketing campaign of The Blair Witch Project (1999) and the correlation between its success and the film’s popularity. The writer discusses how the filmmakers advertised the found footage film in such a way as to spark debate on the factuality of the portrayed events. By leading the general public to believe the events were real, the filmmakers were able to generate an astonishing public awareness for the independent film before its initial release. The post gives reasons for why the marketing was so successful and provides a link to blairwitch.com where examples of the marketing can be seen.

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Evidence of Things Not Quite Seen: Cloverfield's Obstructed Spectacle

Evidence of Things Not Quite Seen: Cloverfield's Obstructed Spectacle | The History of the Found Footage Film | Scoop.it

"Matt Reeves' Cloverfield (2008) plays with vision and concealment, staging a game of "hide and seek" between audiences and the monster it promises to deliver. As a self-conscious entry in the monster movie genre, Cloverfield discloses its monstrous predator only in glimpses, through visual effects that allude to much, but reveal little. In this, the film departs from the usual cinematic treatments of monsters, which are typically displayed like curious zoological specimens: fantastic life forms whose features are to be studied, their destructive..."

Josh Coursey's insight:

Cloverfield (2008) marked the point when Hollywood realized found footage films did not have to be flat-out terryfing to be popular. Cloverfield could have easily been a big-budget monster movie with A-list actors, but the filmmakers chose to keep things relatively small by making it found footage. By doing so, the film was able to break away from several aspects of the monster movie formula. This essay provides background information on the making and promotion of Cloverfield and also shows how the visuals and mise en scène within the film manage to break the mold while still paying homage to classics such as Godzilla.

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Cannibal Holocaust (1980)

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Cannibal Holocaust (1980) was the first found footage film to ever be produced. The ultra-violent film sparked controversy upon its release due to numerous individuals believing it to be a documentary. This essay gives the history of the film and its reception while also providing evidence for why Cannibal Holocaust is more than a horror film. The author analyzes key scenes from the film to argue that it can be seen as an anthropological and sociological mockumentary.

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Origins of the Found Footage Genre

Origins of the Found Footage Genre | The History of the Found Footage Film | Scoop.it

"While nobody (I hope) believes that Paranormal Activity is a true story, when thinking back on the found footage films that worked such as Cannibal Holocaust and Blair Witch I have to wonder why a..."

Josh Coursey's insight:

Although found footage films may appear to be a fairly modern concept, this post traces the roots of the genre back to literature of the 19th century. The post explains how non-fiction pieces dominated literature and how fictional tales were looked down upon by prominent members of society. It goes on to indicate how many fiction writers turned to disguising their works as non-fiction pieces in hopes of gaining more readers. The writer argues that found footage filmmakers follow a similar format to make the film feel more authentic to the audience.

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The Blair Witch Project: An Allegory

The Blair Witch Project: An Allegory | The History of the Found Footage Film | Scoop.it

"The Blair Witch Project marks a watershed moment in cyber-hype. In the same way that Jaws revolutionized distribution by blasting into saturation bookings in 1975..."

Josh Coursey's insight:

The Blair Witch Project (1999) was certainly the most successful of the classical found footage films, due in large part to its groundbreaking marketing campaign. This essay briefly mentions the popularity, history, and narrative of the film before it claims that the truest pieces of information found within the film are its allegorical qualities. The author explains how the film is more than merely a horror story by claiming it to be cautionary tale on “what happens when humans seek the knowledge of a power that is beyond them.” He describes how this argument can be seen through the filmmakers portrayed in Blair Witch and then carries the argument over to filmmakers in real life. In so doing, the author proves how an audience can easily identify with characters in found footage films.

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